Some of our closest friends and family members have ventured to ask outright what most everyone has subtly hinted: "How much is this trip costing you?" Sometimes it is accompanied by comments along the lines of that person not being able to afford a similar trip. Because finding good information about costs for round-the-world trips (often called RTWs) has been so hard to find, we're going to try to share a lot of financial information.
Some of you may not like the occasional focus on money, so feel free to skip them. I will try to contain them all in separate entries tagged "finances". We will try to break down spending by country and share the costs of important excursions where possible. This entry will focus on saving the money in the first place and on our expected budget.
No, we aren't rich, but we have worked hard for the last 8 years to save a reasonable amount of money. I have spent that time working in finance, where I wasn't paid anything like the people you see in the news, but was paid better than most Americans. Tara works in publishing, where she made enough to survive. We're luckier than most in the amount we have made, but anyone can save the money to travel. The key is to be cheap. Call it frugal, thrifty, economical, stingy, penny-pinching, or miserly--they all describe us.
I've spent a lot of time reading the stories of people who travel, and they are almost all the same. It's the little things that add up over time. Take your lunch instead of buying it out every day (or be really cheap like me and don't eat lunch), drink the free office coffee instead of the better Starbucks coffee (better yet, don't drink coffee), drink in people's apartments instead of bars (better yet, don't drink), cook at home instead of going out to eat, buy whatever brand is on sale at the store. You get the idea. Taken as any single event, it seems like it doesn't matter and will only be a couple dollars. Over several years, it amounts to many thousand dollars. Okay, enough with the personal budgeting tips. If you want to talk about it more, I really do love talking about saving money, so get in touch.
So, what does it cost to travel the world? We don't know, but we'll let you know as we find out. Here's what we're thinking at present. I break expenses into four basic categories: 1.) lodging; 2.) food; 3.) transportation; 4.) excursions. What we do know is that expenses will vary a lot from day to day.
Lodging and food are somewhat predictable, though they vary across the world. A good rule of thumb seems to be that lodging for two people and food for two people will cost roughly the same each day if you eat out a fair amount at affordable restaurants and sometimes cook yourself (or make peanut butter and jelly). In South America, we expect lodging and food to cost about $50-60 per day for the two of us. It will probably be less in most of Africa. It will vary a lot in Southeast Asia.
The cost that is hardest to control is transportation. For us, this will primarily be flights and buses. How we are booking flights will be another post, but no matter how you do it, they are likely to cost around $3,000 each over the course of the trip. Maybe more if you fly a lot. We plan to take overland routes wherever possible. If you plan to stay in major cities for a month at a time and just take short day trips, you may find this to be even less. In South America, bus prices differ a lot, but it probably amounts to about $0.20/mile on average. We'll likely travel around 7,000 miles just in South America.
Excursions are the fastest way to blow the budget. These could be anything from a day trip to a waterfall to a week in the Galapagos Islands. They tend to be with small groups and may cost a couple hundred dollars per day per person in some cases. We will try to keep expensive excursions to a minimum, but they are sometimes the only way to get places. We'll let you know what these cost.
To start, we have budgeted about $150/day for the two of us. That amounts to around $75,000 for the 18 months. We hope we can do it cheaper than this, but that's what we're prepared to spend. Feel free to let us know how we can travel cheaper...